October 7 - Pray for: Portugal

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Evangelical growth, once a source of encouragement, has become a serious challenge.

  • Serious divisions. Many denominations suffered acrimonious splits, especially some Pentecostal denominations. Some recent progress has been made to overcome these; pray for churches to major on the core elements of the faith and extend grace in the minor distinctives.
  • Pray for church planting efforts in Portugal. Many more churches are needed. The EA targetted a goal of 4,000 evangelical churches by 2015. Instead, evangelical congegrations actually decreased from 1630 to 964, despite nearly 300 new church plants. 82% of new church plants have congregations with fewer than 25% Portuguese participating. Several groups adopted cell-church models but face the difficulty that, for many Portuguese, a physical building is what communicates religious legitimacy. Pray for continued church growth, for affordable and appropriate meeting places and for leaders for these future churches.


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Religious and political freedom transformed Portugal after 1975. But the focus on individualism and material gain, and a rise in substance abuse, all challenge the nation. The Roman Catholic Church still has influence, but it needs renewal. In southern areas, less than 3% attend mass. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work so that many people encounter the Scriptures and the Saviour in a meaningful way.

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Many congregations lack full-time workers with adequate theological depth and spiritual maturity; church growth exacerbates this problem. These institutions are therefore highly strategic: Assemblies of God, Portuguese Bible Institute (GEM, ECM), Presbyterian, Baptist and Brazilian-founded Bethel Bible Institutes. TEE programmes and Nucleo, a widely used Bible correspondence course, are also strategic. Pray that these may contribute to meeting the ministry needs of the churches.

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There remain pioneer challenges, despite recent church growth. Pray for:

  • The seven northern and northeastern provinces, which are strongly traditional Catholic; relatively few evangelical churches exist. Brethren, Baptists, AoG, GEM, TEAM, ECM, Missão Antioquia and several other missions all have church-planting programmes in the area.
  • The four provinces in the south that are poorer and much less religious. Attendance at mass is very low, and evangelical churches are few.
  • The 316 counties, 44 of which still have no evangelical congregation. This is praiseworthy progress from the 69 in 2000 that lacked a church.
  • Madeira Island (270,000), which has fewer than 20 small evangelical churches, and the Azores (250,000), with a further 26, most being Assemblies of God and Baptist.
  • Ethnic minorities. Large numbers of immigrants continue to flow into Portugal. The earlier waves of Portuguese-speaking West Africans and Brazilians are joined by Chinese, Macanese and Eastern Europeans - especially Ukrainians, who now comprise Portugal's second-largest community. Many of these are unevangelized but open to the gospel; pray for the churches (both Portuguese and foreign) to gain a vision to reach them.
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Young people are often spiritually neglected.

  • Drug abuse is a growing problem - over 50% have experimented with drugs. Teen Challenge, Betel-Spain as well as TEAM and ECM have ministries rehabilitating and discipling addicts.
  • Student work is still in a pioneer stage. GBUP(IFES) has a ministry in eight universities and some high schools. Cru (Agape) and Navigators also have ministries on several campuses.
  • SU and CEF have ministries among school children.
  • Sports are a useful form of outreach. Agape (Athletes in Action) and YWAM (Athletes for Christ) both minister in this way.

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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.